drift fishing


For most modern sportfishing enthusiasts, it’s hard to remember a time when electric motors didn’t exist. We depend on them to control and manoeuver our boats to such an extent, that many anglers struggle to contemplate fishing without one.

However, back in the good old days, most anglers were at the sheer mercy of currents, tide and wind. There was simply no point fighting against these elements so we had to either anchor or learn to use them to our advantage. One of the most common ways to make the most of the prevailing elements was to zip upstream or upwind of fishing grounds and drift fish back through the prime territory.

Drift fishing can be a highly productive technique to target fish on bait or lures and the perfect backup technique if you’ve left your electric motor at home. Here are a few tips.


The first step for setting up a drift is to identify suitable fishing grounds. This could be a drop-off along a riverbank, submerged snags, a reef, rubble fields, a wreck or a bait school. It’s wise to use a GPS to mark out the area that you would like to target. Having clear marks on your GPS screen helps to monitor your drift and ensure you hit the fishing zone.


Once you have your target area identified, you’ll need to assess the prevailing current or wind. Always commence your drift on the up current or upwind side of a target area and set your drift to move through the prime fishing zone. It’s a good idea to run an initial dummy drift to gauge the direction the boat will travel. This makes it much easier to identify the appropriate starting point for your drift over the fishing zone. Keep in mind that the drift will change throughout the day in response the changing currents and shifting wind directions. Keep a close eye on your movements and adjust as necessary.


Pay close attention to the depth that you are fishing and ensure that your lures or baits are reaching the strike zone for the target species. Remember that stronger currents will require heavier weight to get offerings down to the required depth in a timely fashion. Fish too light and your lures and baits will simply trail out in the current and never reach the intended depth.

As you drift over a fishing ground, you can cast ahead of the drift or behind the drift. In slow moving water, casting behind the drift will give your lure or bait much more time in the water to attract and draw strikes. However, in faster currents, it’s sometimes more efficient to cast ahead of the drift to ensure that the offering reaches the required depth before the boat catches up to it. Then you can jig back to the boat or shift around to a trailing position.


Baits can be bounced along the bottom of the substrate for benthic species such as Flathead, Snapper, and a variety of reef dwelling species. A paternoster rig with one or more droppers is ideal for bottom bouncing with prawns or strip baits.

Another very successful technique is to jig with metals or soft plastics. Adjust the weight of the jig or metal to bounce along the bottom or jig through schools of fish holding in the water column.

Drift jigging with plastics and vibes can also be a very effective way to fish open water in dams and impoundments. It is a particularly useful way to cover ground and raise Barramundi and Bass from the depths.

Drift fishing is an extremely effective technique to have up your sleeve. It will help find the fish and entice them to jump on board. If you have success on a particular drift, simply motor back to the starting point and repeat. There’s a very good chance that you’ll duplicate the result. Next time you’re heading out on the water consider whether drifting might be a viable option for you and keep it in mind when you don’t have access to an electric motor.


Is there anything you can add to this article? Let us know and share with everyone else in the comments section below.

Peter Hollingsworth

Peter has been fishing all around Australia since he was a boy. He loves camping, fishing and kayak fishing.